When certain lads see St. Patrick's Day Parade Queen Lauren Catinella — her stunning green eyes, jet-black hair and fair Irish skin — they're just smitten.
It's no secret that the former Illinois State University cheerleader has never been married, that's a parade queen contest requirement.
Catinella doesn't even have a boyfriend. A month before winning the crown, her longtime guy dumped her.
"He may or may not have called a few times since, but at this point, no hard feelings," she told me. "I'm moving on and not looking back."
But don't get your hopes up, fellas.
At parade events, "Guys are always asking for my number and it's really, really awkward," Catinella told me.
"Some people are just so crazy or so drunk. Or they dump their drink on your dress. You know, I try to be nice. But if I give out my number, I'm always changing those last few digits. … The union guys were joking about getting me a shillelagh to keep 'em away."
For Catinella, a 26-year-old paramedic, that's about the only drawback of being crowned parade queen, which is something she's dreamed about since high school.
It took her 10 tries, every year since she was 17. And before that, she watched her older sister, Nicole Catinella Mulcrone, make her run for the crown.
"We only overlapped one year. My parents have been sitting at the Plumber's Hall for the contest for 18 years in a row," said Catinella, who lives in south suburban Blue Island. "I've always been a South Side Irish gal."
Her half-Irish father, Dominick, gave Catinella her Italian surname. But her Irish mother makes sure the kids take great pride in the 75 percent-Irish blood running through their veins.
In her contest entry essay, Catinella wrote about her great-grandfather, John Lavelle, who left Ireland and settled in Chicago, where he worked as an engineer operating Buckingham Fountain.
"He instilled in his family a sense of pride in being from Ireland and a shared culture that is truly unique and rich," Catinella wrote. "It's ... at the core of our daily celebrations as a family."
Even the names of her family's three dogs pay tribute to the Irish.
The chocolate Labrador named after their favorite beer comes running when you yell out, "Guinness."
Keegan, the black Lab, gets its name from the Keegan's Pub, an Irish joint in Beverly.
And Catinella's yellow Lab Jameson is a barking tribute to Irish whiskey, of course.
But that's not the stuff that Catinella thinks won her the crown this year.
"This year a judge asked me how I thought public service was connected to becoming parade queen. I told her about Misericordia … and that my uncle was a resident there for many years and how my family has been involved in supporting them from candy days to Sunday brunches," Catinella said.
"She liked my answer and even sent me a note saying congratulations. … I've been on a high ever since."
For the last several weeks, Catinella has been making the rounds at pre-parade events, including gatherings at Old St. Pat's Church and more corned beef and cabbage dinners than she can count.
Some of the ladies in Catinella's court have dubbed her the "Snow Queen," a reference to the threat of lingering wintry weather on parade day, not the cold shoulder she gives awkward drunken fellas.
"I told them not to be so mean. I don't control the weather," she said. "If it would help I'd do an Irish jig every night hoping the weather will warm up ... 50 degrees and dry would be wonderful."
After completing her parade day duties Saturday, Catinella expects to serve out her reign making appearances at Plumber's Council golf outings and fundraisers when she's needed. She's looking forward to throwing out the first pitch at U.S. Cellular Field at the "Halfway to St. Patrick's Day" game in September.
"This is a once-in-a-lifetime experience," she said. "I'm just going to soak it all in."
And Catinella's not talking about the green beer that she totally expects at least one crazy, drunk guy to spill on her dress when he asks for her phone number.